Look to the Stars
by Alice Isom Gubler Stratton
Chapter 25
Norman
(1936)

136 In the dark morning hours on the 29th of February, we were up and bustling. This time, the bed was already set up in our front room.

"Doc, can't we wait until tomorrow to have this baby?" I asked.

"Great Scott, why?" he asked.

"Because it's Leap-Year Day. The poor little kid will only get a birthday once every four years."

"That's too bad, but this baby isn't going to wait," he answered.

So scrawny little Murry Norman came, all six pounds of him. After the doctor and the nurse had gone, Winferd kissed me and said, "Now we have a son."

"Look, he isn't breathing," I cried.

Norman's face had turned purple. Winferd grabbed the limp little 137 fellow, shaking him until he began to breathe. White-faced, Winferd sat holding his little son. Again the baby's face turned dark, and Winferd worked frantically to get him breathing once more. Goodness! Didn't our little boy want to stay with us?

LaPriel was our hired girl. One thing the Government Bulletin had left out was the fact that a child should learn to feed himself. I had never let Marilyn hold her own spoon because she would make a mess. And now, I lay in our combined bedroom, kitchen, dining room, etc., and watched in distress as LaPriel put Marilyn in her high chair and handed her a dish of food and a spoon. I wanted to cry out, "Feed her," but suddenly I was ashamed of my own default—ashamed to admit that although Marilyn was more than two years old, she didn't know what to do with a spoon. LaPriel seemed unaware that she scraped all of Marilyn's frood out for the first few meals. But that was all. Instinct took over. LIke a little pig, Marilyn finally dug in.

Winferd killed a chicken before he went to work one morning, leaving it for LaPriel to clean. The chickens were Marilyn's playmates that she shared her cracker crumbs with. Her eyes grew big at the sight of the liveless one, and when LaPriel started to scaled it over a tub, Marilyn screamed, "Don't. No, no, don't hurt chickie!"

A look of horror came over LaPriel's face. "Alice, I can't stand it."

"Come here, Marilyn," I coaxed.

Reluctantly she came. LaPriel finished scalding the chicken, and started to pluck it.

Breaking away from me, Marilyn screamed, "No, no. Don't take off chickie's clothes."

LaPriel almost wept as she finished the task, and Marilyn sobbed broken-heartedly.

Grandma Gubler was the nurse that came daily for two weeks, bringing with her special treats.

Marilyn took over the baby in every possible way. One morning, when he lay on a blanket on the table ready for his bath, she climbed up on a chair to watch. "Nice baby," she cooed, kissing him on his bare tummy. "Nice baby brudder," kiss, kiss.

"Wah, wah, wah," Norman howled.

Whirling from the sink, I grabbed Marilyn, scooting her down. Tell-tale teeth marks showed red on Norman's soft, pink tummy. Marilyn had loved too deeply.

Another time, when Norman fussed in his basket, Marilyn said, "Brudder wants dinner." And then a choking sound came from the basket. I ran. She had dropped half of a shelled walnut into his mouth.

The excavation in your yard yawned wide, waiting to become a basement. The wind, the sun and the rain took over. Sucker shoots from the Lombardy poplars along the fence sprouted in the clay walls, and were fast becoming long, leafy saplings. Wind borne seeds came to rest in the subsoil, and weeds grew. In the center of the hole, a tamarack grew, a beautiful lacy thing, waving pink plumes.

138 "Wow isn't that nice," I exclaimed. "We have a flower garden already."

Winferd's brow crinkled. "But I didn't plan this for a sunken garden."

"Sunken garden!" My mind leaped at the words. "Why not? Winferd, we could have fun and really enjoy our basement until we get money enough to build."

With a pained look he said, "That tamarack is growing in the hall outside the bathroom."

"That's all right. We won't be moving in for a few days."

I stood transfixed as the tamarack danced in the breeze. "Boy, oh boy, I can see it all now. Come here!"

Grabbing his hand, I led him into the house. We sat tat the table while I sketched a design for a formal garden.

"Might as well," he conceded.

With tape, hemp string and pegs, we laid out the design on our "basement floor". He wheelbarrowed a thin layer of barnyard litter and sand on the little plots.

"Now it's up to you," he said. "Have fun."

With the tamarack as the focal point, we began with a diamond-shaped patch of lawn. Next came an alyssium border, then a cinder pathwalk. Bordering the outside of the path were nasturtiums, followed by purple petunias. In each corner of the basement was a triangle of zinnias. The garden grew as pretty as planned. Standing on the bank looking down at the flamboyant flower faces was satisfaction. If we'd had money to build, we'd never have known the fun of a sunken garden. Poverty is sometimes elegant.

When Marilyn begged to sleep on the camp cot outside, Winferd said, "Why not?"

Shocked, I said, "A little two-and-one-half year old kid sleeping outside alone?"

"What difference does being little make?"

"She'll get scared in the night."

"There's not a thing out there to hurt her."

So Marilyn slept alone under the pecan tree. She loved outdoors and everything that lived there.

And the chickens loved her. The wire hook that fastened the pen gate was within her reach, and she couldn't resist the fun of the feathered excitement as the flock squawked past her into the garden. The paddling she got seemed worth the pleasure of doing it again and again. And then egg production dropped, in spite of the daily cackling chorus. One afternoon I heard Marilyn giggling above the clucking of the chickens. I found her sitting on the ground in front of the woodpile, the entire flock of fat hens gathering around her. On her lap was a pan of eggs. One by one she was breaking them onto a shingle, where the greedy chickens guzzled them.

"Stop it, Marilyn" I shouted.

139 "But the chickies like eggs," she replied.

Shooing the flock away, I grabbed the pan from her and turned her over and paddled. but always, the fluttering, cackling and clucking of the chickens pressing against the mesh wire at sight of her was too much. She slipped into the run to drop an occasional egg for them to devour. The wire hook on the gate had to be replaced with a strap buckled through the fence.

The milk cow received the same loving attention from her that the chickens did. Often, when the cow was lying down, Marilyn crawled through the corral fence and climbed onto her back, laying her face against the cow's hairy hide. Oblivious to her, the cow continued to chew her cud.

Grandma Gubler had a skitterish nag that jumped whenever a car went down the street. When she was fastened to the plow, she often jumped sidewise, almost tangling Winferd in the reins. She was dangerous.

One morning when Marilyn had disappeared, I spied her in the field next to the house, her arms lovingly wrapped around the nervous nag's hind leg, her face pressed against its flank. Winferd caught sight of her, too. As he reached my side, he put a finger to his lips, indicating that we must not make a sound. Silently we watched and prayed. Marilyn loved and patted the horse to her heart's content, and it never flinched a muscle until after she walked away and crawled through the fence to safety.

But the animals weren't always so considerate. One Sunday morning when I had dressed Marilyn in a new yellow dress and bonnet, she felt so grand that she walked to where the cow was staked in the grass. Spreading out her skirt, she said, "Hi cow. See pretty dress!"

The cow lowered its head, and with a snort and a bunt, landed Marilyn in a steaming fresh pile of manure. She cried like her heart would break. To try to describe my feelings would be futile!

In June, the County Agent, Anson call, took a bus load of beet seed growers on a tour through Arizona and Southern California, to study methods of harvesting and raising beets. The Beet Seed Industry had been growing in Washington County since 1932. Since Winferd cultivated and tended Grandpa Gubler's beet seed crop, he was asked to take the tour. It was an opportunity for a real vacation for him. He enjoyed the change of pace, and the chance to be with "the boys".

A smorgasbord was spread before them at each stop. Once, when Roland Webb noticed a bowl of what looked like mashed turniips, he exclaimed, "Oh boy, I love buttered turnips," and proceeded to heap his plate. When tears streamed down his face over the first spoon full, someone exclaimed, "Horseradish," and everyone laughed.

In September, Winferd went to Salt Lake as a delegate to the Republican Convention. While there he enjoyed a reunion with some of his missionary companions, Allen Wood, Del Fairbourne, and Royden Mccullough, and attended a Grocer's Convention, where they forecasted a future day when shoppers could actually buy pre-cooked food. Also they forecasted a time when dish washing would be done away with. He ate off a plate that was consumed with his food.

140 We attended a pageant at the St. George Temple, a dramatizeation of the progress of Utah's Dixie. Two thousand spectators viewed it from the southeast lawn. One of the most thrilling moments was when Dilworth Snow was spotlighted near the top of the temple, singing, "This is the Place, Dear Utah". Earl Bleak accompanied him on the trumpet. Mary McGregor, a feast for the eyes in her Indian costume, sang in a clear, beautiful voice, "Indian Love Call".

When the chill of the nights and the gold of October days reddened and ripened the heavy bunches of cane seed, and turned the blades on the stocks to rattling, rasping swords, then came Molasses Making time in LaVerkin. An unwritten law, which every Molasses Maker's wife understood, was the singleness of purpose in their household—Molasses Making. The cane was cut and topped, then hauled on horse-drawn sleds to the mill, where the green, frothy juice was squeezed out between heavy steel rollers. usually there was one man on the boiler and two on the sleds. The wives of the Molasses Makers waited on their men until the session was over.

When I came into the Gubler Clan, I married a Molasses Maker. Most of the time, Grandpa "boiled" and Winferd and his brothers "hauled and squeezed". Horses hitched to a sweep marched in a circle all day long, turning the mill. Grandma or the girls toted the men's dinners to them in large pails, because neither the boiler nor the mill could be interrupted. The men ate on the job. Even though the cane grew just across the street from the house, dinner was still carried to the field. As the boys married, their wives continued to tote their pails, perpetuating the old custom. Usually, making molasses was a race against oncoming frost. The race lasted from three to six weeks and everyone put in double time.

The dinners were not lunches, but full-course meals of hot, mashed potatoes, gravy, meat, salads, and pies, the same as would have been served at the table, using just as many dishes. This required a huge milk bucket for each man. The bucket was cumbersome and heavy to lug.

So now we found ourselves living just over the fence from the cane field. Dutifully, I neglected my house and babies to prepare the big bucket of hot dishes for my man. Anxiety trailed me across the field, because i never knew what the "old baby" might do to the "new baby" while I lugged my hot and awkward load across the rough furrows and stubble of the cane field. Often I met Winferd in the field and he sat on the sled and ate, while I waited to carry back the dishes.

Rebellion arose within me. "Why should I knock myself out dragging this weary load into the field," I asked myself, "when he drives right by the house? After all, it is easier for him to come into the house and carry his food out in his stomach, than it is for me to fuss and arrange all of those cumbersome bowls."

"Look dear," I said, "from now on, you just hop over that fence and come and sit down to the table. All the world knows a man has to take time out to eat. You're not more than one block away from your own table any of the time during Molasses Making. If it isn't worth your time to come in and eat, it isn't worth my time to take the food to you."

That was it. Winferd came home to eat. The idea caught on. Others took a turn at the boiler, and even Grandpa learned to go home to dinner.